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Car reviews - Toyota - RAV4 - GXL

Our Opinion

We like
Roominess, practicality, striking looks, zippy engine around town, boot space
Room for improvement
Dashboard is a mess of materials and design, thirsty engine, cabin noise on highway, big tailgate, no rear A/C

Toyota logo27 Jan 2017

By ROBBIE WALLIS

Price and equipment

THE RAV4 we tested was the GXL AWD petrol version teamed to a six-speed automatic transmission and priced at $38,450 before on-roads, placing it roughly in the middle of the RAV4 range, but the second-most expensive petrol-powered variant. Also included was an optional safety pack worth $2500, bringing the recommended retail price up to $40,990.

Standard safety features without the safety pack include vehicle stability control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), reversing camera with rear parking sensors, hill-start assist, seven airbags, automatic LED headlights and rain sensing wipers.



Adding the advanced safety pack gets you automatic high beam, blind spot monitor, front parking sensors, lane departure alert, sway warning, active cruise control and forward collision warning with autonomous braking.

The GXL gets the 6.1-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary connectivity available in all RAV4 variants, but gains features such as satellite navigation, digital radio, a 4.2-inch display in the instrument cluster, premium steering wheel, automatic dual-zone air conditioning, smart entry and start, electrochromatic mirror and Toyota Link, Toyota’s smartphone-integrated interface that provides information such as fuel locations and up-to-date weather reports.

Our test car even had a small amount of off-road ability, aside from its all-wheel-drive set-up, with Toyota including hill-descent control and a central diff lock, however its lack of ground clearance didn’t lend itself to much more than dirt road driving.

The GXL rides on 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 235/55 tyres, which look great, as does the Peacock Black paint colour – despite the seemingly contradictory name. The paint gives a dark navy, almost black effect in the shade, but once in the sun, the duco sparkles with hints of green and turquoise.

The alloy wheels aside, little else separates the GXL from its poorer GX sibling visually, but at no point did our car look like a cheap or base-level vehicle – largely thanks to the paint.

Overall, the GXL comes with a solid level of specification, however it could have done with more tech features such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to appeal to a younger demographic, and the lack of air-con vents in the rear seats was a letdown.

Interior

On the outside, the RAV4 (and Toyota models in general) tend towards angular designs with sharp angles and striking looks with generally positive results.

The Toyota designers seem to have employed the same philosophy to the dashboard of the RAV4, with only marginal success.

The entire dashboard and centre console is a mish-mash of angles, lines and materials that seemed to not follow any sort of pattern and gives the interior a clunky and unorganised feel. For our tastes, the blend of hard plastics, leather and cloth made the dashboard feel haphazard, as did the seemingly random placement of cupholders, nooks and the gear selector on the centre console.

Ergonomics aside, the RAV4 proved to have a functional, comfortable and surprisingly roomy interior, both front and back, with comfortable cloth seats and a good driving position. Passengers have access to a generously sized glovebox, a two-tier centre storage box, two cupholders in the centre console as well as two more in the doors, a flat ledge above the glovebox to place items such as books or phones, and a small nook and smartphone-sized flat storage space next to the gear selector.

Extra space in the door bins and a sunglasses compartment overhead is also a nice touch.

The lower part of the dash houses a USB, auxiliary input and a pair of 12V ports – one of which we didn’t even notice until the end of our time in the car due to the cluttered mess that is the dashboard.

The leather-bound steering wheel has reach-and-tilt adjustment and functional, easy-to-use buttons.

The air-conditioning unit is, thankfully, separate to the touchscreen interface, allowing easy use and adjustment, while the features in the touchscreen display are easy and functional enough to use, despite the small amount of input lag.

The topographical layout of the sat-nav is a novel feature, although using it to enter destinations and routes could have been easier.

Front seat occupants have four speakers with two additional ones in the rear and, although the sound system was ample for driving around town, when we got out onto the highway, the speakers could get drowned out by road noise.

Rear occupants also get their own 12V socket, cupholders in the doors and central armrest, reclinable seats, and four Isofix points. Points were lost due the absence of air-con vents in the rear, which are especially important over the summer period. However, the roominess of the RAV4’s cabin was a particular highlight in our time with the car thanks to its 4605mm length, 1845mm width and 1715 height. We were able to fit comfortably in the front or back, with more than ample head and legroom, and transporting four adults was a breeze.

The boot comes equipped with a cargo net and tonneau cover, four tie down points, handles for shopping bags and a false floor with a space-saver spare tyre underneath, however a lack of light made using the boot at night less than ideal.

With the 60:40 split-fold rear seat upright, the RAV4 has a generous 577 litres of boot space that expands to 1666 litres with the rear seats folded. One problem we encountered when using the boot was the sheer size of the tailgate, which when opening would force you to step out of the way or risk getting hit as it swings upwards.

Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels inside the cabin were acceptable, however when travelling at highway speeds, we found the 18-inch wheels and wind to create a fair amount of noise that forced us to turn up the stereo.

Overall we found the interior of the RAV4 to be functional and roomy, if not very attractive.

Engine and transmission

The petrol RAV4 GXL is powered by Toyota’s naturally aspirated 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder unit shared with the Camry, and develops 132kW at 6000rpm and 233Nm of torque at 4100rpm, sending power to all four wheels via a six-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.

We found the engine adequate for relaxed cruising in the 1600kg or so crossover, but we really had to make it work hard to get any sort of spritely acceleration.

Around town the engine was an earnest worker and the responsiveness of the engine was impressive. It is quite zippy off the line thanks to its short first gear however, it was a bit anaemic while accelerating through the rest of the ratios and sounded thrashy when pushed hard.

Putting it in Sport mode made the engine rev harder but didn’t make a huge impression on performance. We felt the engine really could have used an extra 20-30Nm of low-end torque.

The six-speed transmission is also smooth and amiable, shifting through the gears with ease whether on flat or hilly roads.

However, the engine proved to be quite thirsty in our time with the car, returning a respectable combined fuel cycle figure of 8.9 litres per 100km with the majority of the driving time completed on the highway, just 0.4L/100km shy of the official combined figure.

Overall we were happy with the performance of the 2.5-litre engine, although some rivals could offer similar performance from smaller-capacity, turbocharged engines that save money on fuel consumption.

Ride and handling

The RAV4 GXL rides on 18-inch wheels which, while giving the car a striking appearance, can make the ride a little firm when navigating bumps and ruts at low speeds while also contributing to increased road noise at high speeds.

We were otherwise perfectly comfortable in our time in the RAV4, with the ride supple enough to transport occupants over long distances without getting a sore backside or spine. The only annoying part of our experience was the overly-sensitive adaptive cruise control, which would apply the brakes a little too aggressively when it detected a car in front.

The RAV4 also handled well on dirt roads, with the all-wheel-drive system providing ample grip and the suspension soaking up the uneven surface admirably.

The grip transferred well onto bitumen roads too, while we found the brakes a tad overly-sensitive and would have appreciated a more progressive biting point.

Overall the ride and handling was fair if not a bit uninspired, and while it performed dutifully, it didn’t have the flair or excitement of other mid-size SUV rivals.

Safety and servicing

All RAV4 variants scored a five-star ANCAP rating when they were tested in October 2016, scoring 34.56 points out of a possible 37. It managed 13.56 out of 16 for the frontal offset test, perfect scores for the side impact and pole test, and a ‘good’ rating for the whiplash protection test – the maximum rating possible.

It gets dual frontal, side chest, side curtain and driver knee airbags as standard, while forward collision warning, autonomous braking and active cruise control are part of the optional safety pack – which is standard on the top-spec Cruiser variant.

The warranty on the RAV4 is good for either three years or 100,000km, and capped-price servicing of $180 for up to six services for the first three years or 60,000km is available.

Verdict

Toyota has built its reputation on providing Australians with vehicles that are safe, practical, reliable and can be a bit on the boring side, which is encapsulated with the RAV4. It is a well-put-together package that offers a car which can fit the whole family in comfort and minimal fuss, with the peace of mind that comes with Toyota ownership.

While it may lack the dynamic involvement of a Mazda CX-5 or the gorgeously laid out interior of a Volkswagen Tiguan, it ticks all the boxes that the average buyer is looking for when considering a new car. It looks more exciting than a lot of its meekly-designed rivals and has a proven history and powertrain to go with it.

For the everyman, the package that the RAV4 puts together is likely all you need and maybe even more.

Rivals

Nissan X-Trail ST-L 4WD from $39,490 plus on-road costs
Nissan greatly improved the oft-maligned X-Trail when it was updated in 2014, bringing a new CVT, updated tech and a choice of one diesel and two petrol engines. It is also available in seven-seat configuration for those looking to haul a big family on a budget.

Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport 2.5 AWD from $36,490 plus on-road costs
Despite being near the end of its life cycle, the CX-5 is the sales leader in its segment for a reason. It blends eager engines, well laid-out interiors and sharp handling for a very attractive overall package.

Subaru Forester 2.5i-S from $39,740 plus on-road costs
Subaru are usually reliable in putting together quality offerings at a reasonable price, and the Forester is no different. In 2016 the range received an Aussie-specific suspension tune and extra equipment for no extra cost.

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